Phnom Penh Hash House Harriers: In the Spotlight - Costa Rica

In the Spotlight - Costa Rica

In the Spotlight – Costa Rica

By Ed "Hazukashii" Howell
10 Mar 2022


Costa Rica is one of seven countries that make up Central America, but they are all really just part of North America, along with Canada, Greenland, the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean.  Bordered by Nicaragua to the north and Panama to the east, Costa Rica also has coasts on the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.  As with most of the countries in this region, Spain was the first to dock their ships along the coast, but Costa Rica eventually claimed its independence in 1821.  Aligning with Mexico for a couple years, then the Federal Republic of Central America, Costa Rica achieved its own autonomy in 1838.


Costa Rica is a relatively small country, with a population of around 5 million.  The landscape is dominated by over 100 active and extinct volcanos with the most recent eruption in 2010, and is predominately an agriculturally based society.  Although Spanish is the official language, English is widely spoken in urban areas.  Costa Ricans enjoy a high standard of living, making it a popular place for tourism and expat retirement.


As you might expect, the Hash House Harriers has also become a staple in the capital city of San Jose.  I spent an afternoon with Ian Young in San Jose recently, where he told me about how he first found the hash in the newspaper in Hong Kong in 1969, and was on trail #2 of the newly formed Hong Kong H3.  Born and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland, Ian got a job with Pfizer, and that took him all over the world.  He hashed in Hong Kong for a couple years before being transferred to Korea, where he founded the Seoul H3 in 1972.  He was then sent back to Hong Kong before eventually making his way to Costa Rica. 


Costa Rica is a beautiful country, and Ian got busy with other activities for a couple years, and did not feel he was meeting the right sort of people that would be interested in the hash.  That was, until he met Bill Barbee.  Explaining the concept in detail, Bill immediately thought it was a great idea to get a club started, so he and Ian started getting the word out.  The first hash trail set was on 3 Feb 1979, when Ian Young and Bill Barbee founded the San Jose H3.  Although Ian was the founder, he was transferred to Colombia shortly after starting the club, and it was actually Bill Barbee that was the driving force to keep the San Jose H3 going after Ian's departure.  Under Bill's guiding hand, based on what he learned from Ian, the pack continued to grow.  So much so, that with hashers living all over the city, the run start locations were also all over the city.  This went on for over 25 years.


Ian continued on with his life and career throughout the 80s and 90s, living in several other countries and eventually starting a family.  He weaved in and out of hashing during this time, but did spend some time in England and Indonesia where he was able to connect with other hash groups, but family life limited his desire to start a new club where there was none.  After retiring from a long and successful career with Pfizer, Ian and his wife moved back to San Jose.


As with many metropolitan areas, over the years the growth of the city was outpaced by the growth in traffic, and it became harder to get through town for the weekly runs.  Both Ian and Bill lived in Escazu out in the western suburbs of San Jose, along with many of the old timers, and this group started to miss too many trails.  To ensure everyone was able to get their weekly fix of hashing, a splinter group was formed.  On 10 Jan 2005, Millard 'Fancy Pants' Farmer took the lead on forming the aptly named Escazu H3.  The two-club system went on happily for a number of years, but eventually numbers started to drop much like in other parts of the world.  The breakaway old timers of the Escazu H3 rejoined the others and they all have run together as the San Jose H3 since.   


More recently, another new hash club has formed about 3 hours' drive south of San Jose in Uvita, founded by Dave "SCFAL" Peters and Pam "GILF" Kexel.  These two lovers first came to Costa Rica for InterAmericas' Hash in 2003, where they started their lives together.  Going back to their homes in Waukesha, they married and lived happily for many years.  Then, they woke up to the realization that it snows in Wisconsin like 10 months out of the year.  They devised a plan to return to the land that they loved down in Central America, and hatched a plan to build their dream home, along with a few cabanas to rent out. 


Although still under construction, Camino a la Paz is a small eco retreat in Uvita that will have rentals of 3 full apartments, with 4 queen beds and 3 futons, sleeping 11 people, along with a pool on site (and camping space if you desire).  The area is full of opportunity for full on adventure hashing, full on beach bum, or somewhere in between.  The facility is surrounded by jungle and wildlife including monkeys, scarlet macaws, sloths, and iguanas.  Along with that the Uvita H3 was born.  If you would like to gather a few hasher friends and try out some hashing in Costa Rica, contact GILF on WhatsApp at 506.8665.6983 and make your reservations (special hash rates apply . . . and you can also help schedule a hash run).  They are hashers through and through and miss their hash family.  If you come and visit, they will set trail, show you around town, or just be available as needed.


But wait, that is not the end of the story . . . Costa Rica has another unique aspect when it comes to hashing, dreamed up by Giles "Patchwork-Quilt" Paget-Wilkes.  Patch first arrived in Costa Rica in 1979, just after the San Jose H3 was formed.  He was on run #5 and immediately become a regular.  It would only be a few short years before Patch became the Grand Master of the San Jose H3, and looking out over the world of hashing decided that one city, nor even one country, was big enough for his rule.  He hatched the idea of creating a bigger event . . . making San Jose the birthplace of the biennial InterAmericas' Hash in February 1984. 


In the 1985 annual program of the San Jose H3, Patch described it this way.  "As usual this year some great guys have left us for 'greener pastures' . . . However things are changing compared with the early days when people just disappeared, as all of these people are either running with other hashes or have started a new chapter if there was nothing in the town they moved to.  As a result Hashing has spread like wildfire through Central America with 3 new clubs in the last year.  Communication between all these new and existing clubs was greatly improved by the first Inter-Americas Hash, which was held in San Jose this February.  With Hashers from 16 different clubs at the gathering many long lasting relationships were initiated, and this together with greatly increased travel and visiting between the clubs is helping to form a solid hashing network throughout the Hemisphere.  This can only result in benefit and enjoyment for all concerned, which is what hashing is all about." 


Patch can also be seen explaining the first INTERAM, as it is now known.  Approximately 250 hashers turned up for that first one, so another was held again in 1985.  INTERAM has continued on the odd years (with the exception of 2021 due to COVID) opposite INTERHASH ever since.  The next one will be the 20th INTERAM, and is scheduled to take place in September 2023 in Guatape, Colombia.  The whole history of INTERAM is coming out soon.


I recently had the pleasure of traveling to San Jose for the 43rd anniversary of hashing in Costa Rica, and was able to meet up with both Ian Young and Patch-Work-Quilt.  I first met PWQ in 1993 on a hash run with the Mosquito County H3 in Florida, that ended at his house.  I'll have more on that in a future article, but on this event we had a fine hash social on Friday night where we got to meet and greet with about 25 hashers.  Saturday, we had a hash trail with the San Jose H3 out in the countryside, along with a BBQ after a short trail (it was 3 miles if you ran it 4 times, like I did).  Keep in mind, the majority of the pack here is in their late 60s and up (Ian will be 80 in May), and the trail was all shiggy with a few obstacles. 


On Sunday, we boarded a bus for what was usually a 90 minute drive, but it ended up taking 2.5 hours to get to the beach out in Jaco.  The newly formed Uvita H3 sponsored this trail, which had us first going up the hill for a beer stop on the top of a steep dirt road (with some 4 & 5 points of contact on the eagle loop).  All this leading us up to some great views, then back down for a long stretch on the black sand beach.  We watched a local surfing contest for a bit, then circled up for a few down downs and songs, before grabbing some delightful food and watching the sunset.  We then boarded the bus back into San Jose, which by this time, the beach goers were all doing the same, and it would take 4 hours to get back.  As you might guess, we had to make a couple breaks to download, and upload, more beer.  Costa Rica is amazing, come visit . . . you will not be disappointed.


For many more articles like this on the history of hashing, check out . . .


On on!